Open Letter to Harrison Butker

Dear Harrison Butker, 

Your commencement speech at Benedictine College does not reflect the world in which you and I grew up.

We are both from Decatur, Ga. Our high schools are a thirty-minute drive away from one another, and I expect that as fellow Georgians, we would even offer the same disclaimer: “Well, thirty minutes, assuming minimal traffic.” 

I attend school at your alma mater, and in less than two years I will be alongside you saying “to HELL with georgia” in the alumni suite. 

Yet, I disagree with nearly everything you said in your commencement speech.

Sure, we can point out differences in the number of Super Bowl rings between us or that I am a woman and you are a man, but those differences do not account for the major discrepancies in our interpretations of American society. 

In your speech, you say that “[t]he world around us says that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves whenever they go against the tyranny of diversity, equity, and inclusion.” 

But there is no DEI tyranny. The worlds we live in are not governed by these ideals, not only systemically but culturally. The narrative of DEI forcefully suppressing opposing beliefs is nothing in comparison to the reality of the institutional forces that oppose progressive thought.

For example, in your address you said  you “have gained quite the reputation for speaking [your] mind.”  This descriptor puts you in a group with other politically active athletes who use their platforms to say what they believe, such as Colin Kaepernick and Muhammad Ali. 

The key difference is what your fellow athletes stood for. They both took a stance for equity and as a result, were effectively blacklisted from their sports. The most severe consequence  of your political stance has been internet backlash. That does not sound like diversity, equity and inclusion reign in our culture.

Suppression of activism extends beyond the world of professional sports. 

As a fellow Jacket, I assume you are  familiar with the fight song “Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech,” in which one of the lyrics is “Oh, if I had a daughter sir, I’d dress her in white and gold, And put her on the campus, sir, to cheer the brave and bold.” 

For years, this lyric has been controversial because it suggests a woman’s role at the Institute to cheer on male students. It is a lyric that stands against inclusion.

There have been campaigns and elections to change the lyrics, but despite the alleged tyranny of diversity, this lyric continues to appear in the T-book and all other official publications. Even on a systemic level, women continue to be a minority at the Institute, despite the growing numbers of female applicants in recent years. 

Time and time again, those in power shut down efforts toward diversity and inclusion. Then, it is not diversity, equity, and inclusion that are tyrannical, but the current doctrines of empowered people. 

In your speech, you said that, “Our Catholic faith has always been countercultural.” I push you to consider that your faith may be countercultural in the broader world, but not in positions of power. 

Proportional to the United States population, Catholicism is disproportionately represented in public office. According to the Pew Research Center, 20% of Americans identify as Catholic. However, nearly 30% of Congress members identify as Catholic, as well as President Joe Biden and two-thirds of the Supreme Court.

While Catholics are a minority in the United States, they are not a minority in circles of influence. Your faith is extremely well-protected, unlike abortion, IVF or surrogacy, all of which you mention as the results of poor leadership in the United States.

The tyranny you describe does not exist. You speak of honoring your vocation as a man, and a part of that is listening to the women  who are the backbone of society. 

I implore you to write about what you know — the world as it really is.